If you have ever suspected more significance in dirty books than meets the fantasy, this so-called ""critical history"" of the genre was written for you. Never mind the dreary and impressionistic catalog of types and authors and the tedious summaties of plots, Michael Perkins is bent on proving ""that erotic writing offers the reader intellectual and even spiritual rewards aside from the obvious pleasures."" The pleasutes are not all obvious here because Perkins shuns the portrayal of sexuality ""as an end in itself"" to celebrate it ""as a path into the darkest regions of the soul."" He even has his Virgils to guide the perilous journey, albeit with uncertain steps: among them, Georges Bataille, Jean Genet, Pauline Reage, Marco Vassi. Some stirrings of ""heightened consciousness"" are experienced along the way, but the destination has another name: ""ego transcendence."" To Perkins' imagination, at once exalted and banal, liberated eroticism finds its Paradise in the denial of self. As he says, this is a form of salvation. And as he does not say, it is the vengeance of the repressed. You may well decide that fantasy needs it not--while you await a worthier book.